Providing high-quality childcare services at no cost to low-income parents attending community colleges and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) is the focus of legislation introduced by Democrats in the House and Senate.
Last week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) unveiled the Preparing and Resourcing Our Student Parents and Early Childhood Teachers Act (PROSPECT Act) following a recent report that showed one in five college students are raising a child under age five while in school, and that many of these parents have trouble finding affordable, high-quality childcare. In December, Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Connecticut) introduced the same legislation in the House.
There are about 4.3 million college students in the U.S. who are raising children while attending school, according to Hayes’ office. Student parents are 20 percent more likely to leave college without a degree than students without children.
Student parents also are more likely to enroll at community colleges and MSI than other institutions of higher education. Over a quarter of all community college students are parents, and in the 2015–2016 academic year, 40 percent of black women attending college were parents, three times the rate for white male college students, according to the legislation.
The legislation calls to invest $9 billion over five years in three competitive grant programs that would:
- Help community colleges and MSIs provide free, high-quality childcare to up to 500,000 children under age three with a parent enrolled in the institution
- Provide funding and technical support to infant and toddler care programs near community colleges and MSIs
- Improve and increase the childcare workforce by supporting early childhood education programs at these institutions to create a pipeline of infant and toddler care providers in the community
- Expand eligibility requirements for the Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG) childcare subsidy to low-income parents enrolled in an accredited institution of higher education
- Increase federal government and state investment in the CCDBG program by increasing the federal match rate for childcare services for infants and toddlers to 90 percent
- Require institutions of higher education to share with students information on the Dependent Care Allowance, which can provide many student parents with an additional $3,000 in subsidized federal student loans per year